My Book Is About Taekwondo…and Mental Illness. There, I Finally Said It.

I mean, it’s right there in the title.

Spoiler alert: my upcoming memoir is about mental illness as much as it is about training for my black belt.

I mean, you probably got the gist from the title, but I thought I’d go ahead and spell it out.

This is the most difficult post I’ve ever written, and I know once it’s published and shared I will be questioning my choice. I’ve tried several times to write this under different themes and different titles for the last several years, and until now I’ve never had the courage to click the “publish” button.

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Jumping (Cautiously) Into 2021: Staying Focused on What Matters

On January 7, nearly six months to the day I tore my ACL, I practiced jumping. I still can’t fully extend my leg and still walk with a slight limp, but by God, I was jumping.

It. Was. Terrifying.
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#1 Recovery Tip From One ACL Warrior to Another

I’m a second degree black belt. I could have tested for third degree black belt at the end of this year.

BIG.DEAL.

I had to relearn how to walk after my July knee surgery. When you can’t walk very well or even stand up in the shower, all that fighting, jumping, and sprinting nonsense goes out the window for a while. It’s hard to feel like the athlete you were before your injury. It’s depressing to feel out of shape. It’s frustrating to go through so much pain as you heal and gain strength. 

Recovering from a major injury when you used to do a high-level sport can feel overwhelming and a bit daunting. 

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Woodshedding: (Re)Perfecting Your Technique Like a Musician

Woodshed illustrations are either super cute or look like they’re from a horror movie.

I come from a family of creators who enjoy challenging hobbies. My dad is a painter who is especially skilled in oils and portraiture, and he was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. My mom likes doing difficult and complex knitting patterns. My brother is a professional musician.

I hit stuff.

Kidding aside, any martial artist knows they have to put in hours and years to hone their craft. It’s not a matter of mindlessly parroting or mimicking motions their Sensei or Sabumnim does. You have to develop both the mental and physical intelligence required to perform and improve upon your martial art. You have to understand why you do certain things.

You have to be a good mechanic.

The other day during a text exchange with my mom and brother, my brother said he was learning the classically-influenced 1970s pop song “MacArthur Park,” and was doing some “woodshedding.”

Woodshedding?

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The Case for Working on Your Weaknesses

“Playing to my strengths,” as we say in the corporate world, may very well have cost me my ACL. Let me explain…

I work in healthcare leadership development, so we arbiters of euphemisms rarely use the word “weakness.” We dance around “opportunities for development” or “areas of growth.” I involuntarily shivered when a client said she wanted her team to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) so they could “learn about their strengths and weaknesses.” My goodness, I positively had the vapors. Technically, as I gently hold her, the MBTI looks at preferences rather than true strengths and weaknesses, but…something about the word “weakness” was just too real for me.

Turns out, working on your weaknesses can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

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The Surprisingly Therapeutic Aspect of Watching the “Cobra Kai” Series

cobra kai

[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]

Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was. 

Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be. 

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Celebrate Small Wins

small progress

I did something new in physical therapy this week: I rode a stationary bike.

I’m three weeks into ACL reconstruction surgery recovery. The sutures are out, leaving me with only a few small scars (thanks to arthroscopic surgery), and most of the time, I can walk around in my house with just my big leg brace, sometimes with one crutch if I’m tired. I still need a crutch to walk up and down my steep stairs, but I’m getting pretty good at that too. 

I was a little surprised when my physical therapist told me to start with the bike when I entered the clinic Monday morning. I figured he’d want me to do my regular warm-ups to ease the morning stiffness out of my leg. It’s still very difficult to bend my knee beyond ninety degrees. This was going to be interesting. 

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Using Martial Arts Basics To Recover From an Injury

white belt uniform

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know how I feel about forms. I’ve written over two dozen blog posts about the mental and physical benefits (and inevitable life lessons) of practicing poomsae.

To my surprise, my physical therapist casually mentioned that I should start doing slow-motion forms to work on balance and transferring weight back and forth on my legs. I’m nearly three weeks post-op from ACL reconstruction surgery, and, if I’m careful, I can move around the house with just my leg brace. I was excited about the prospect.

I’ve done forms as mental therapy. I’ve never done them as physical therapy, so this will be a new recovery/martial arts adventure for me.

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Slow to Go Fast

Illustration of race between rabbit and turtle.
Eventually I’ll get there.

According to my mother, I began walking shortly before my first birthday.

Yesterday, about a month after my forty-first birthday, I learned how to walk again. 

I had a 9:00 am physical therapy appointment with Cody, my long-time therapist and injury wizard. He was expecting another patient in thirty minutes, so he decided we would work on walking since I could now put more weight on my right leg (not my full weight, but more than fifty percent), and then I could do the exercises I already knew on my own. 

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Is My Injury Bad For My Image?

model mirror
You can barely see her knee surgery scars from here.

The editing work for my upcoming memoir is finally done, and now I’m dipping my callused toes (from all the roundhouse kicks, of course) into publicity. I’m *thisclose* to selecting a publicist and very excited about the next step of my publishing journey.

The ACL injury and subsequent surgery seem like especially bad timing.
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